Rennes is not often mentioned on tourist guides but this medium size town is well worth a visit. It has about 200,000 inhabitants, of which about 50,000 are students. This gives the town a vibrant night life. Some streets, such as the Rue Saint Michel, have only one type of shop on both sides: Bars!(The locals actually call "Rue Saint Michel" "la rue de la soif", which means the "Street of Thirst"). A stroll down Rue Saint Michel on a Friday or Saturday evening is a very interesting experience indeed. However, if youre really in the mood to "faire la fête", celebrate or just have fun in other words, the most exciting night on "Rue de la Soif" would be the "Jeudi Soir", Thursday nights, during the school year. Jeudi Soir is the night were the bars are most often packed to the brim with students. The sights on Thursday nights out on the town are very memorable and intresting.
Rennes is particularly nice in early July, during the "Festival des Tombées de la Nuit". Its streets are then full of people enjoying the free street entertainment and eating or drinking at the terraces of the restaurants and cafés.
Rennes used to virtually empty after the 15th of July, as most of its inhabitants were migrating to the coast until the 15th August. In recent years, this trend seems to have stopped and Rennes's terraces and cafes are now bustling throughout the year.
In Rennes, there is a very good public transport system. Rennes offers 38 different bus routes and a metro, with 1 bus every 5 minutes for the metro and main bus lines at the peak hours. The hub of the network is at Republique, which feeds most of the 38 different routes, and it is here where you can buy day, weekly, monthly or yearly travel passes. This bus and metro network connects all parts of Rennes, and so you're never far from a bus stop. All the bus stops conveniantly have a map (une carte) of Rennes with all the lines on, and a timetable for the routes it provides, so there isn't much chance of getting lost.
The metro, called the VAL, has only one line with 15 stops and connects the main train station to the centre-ville. STAR (the company that runs the buses and underground) claims that their network has the cheapest prices in France, with a single ticket (valid for an hour after validation) costing €1.10.
Day tickets can be bought for €3 a day, and are valid on both the bus and metro.
Rennes offers very good options for cyclists. With plenty of cycle lanes, the town has plenty of cyclists. For residents of the town, bikes can be borrowed free of charge from the mayor's office. These bikes aren't particularly good, but they work and have gears, so its worth checking them out. If you're after a pleasant cycling trip, check out the canal route. This is flat, and therefore not very arduous.
One highlight of Rennes, if you're after natural beauty and tranquility, is Parc Thabor. This park has a stunning collection of plantlife, including a large bed of hundreds of species of roses, tropical, African and European trees, other beautiful and rare plants, and offers the traveller a chance to see some budgies. There are cages with a dozen of different sorts of small colourful birds. To get to Parc Thabor from Republique station, take bus number 3 (direction St. Laurient) and get off at the Thabor stop.
Every Saturday morning, until 13h30, there is a large food market in the centre of town, where you can buy low price fruit and veg, a vast array of fish, crêpes, galettes, fresh meat and other French delicacies such as wine, snails and cheeses. This is always bustling with people trying to buy low-price groceries and meat. The market is based in the Place des Lices, an 8 minute walk from the main bus station, Republique.
There is a large shopping mall at Place du Colombier about 300m north west of the train station. The Metro stops there. C & A and Habitat are two of the stores that are in the mall.
There's also rue d'Oréans one of the main streets directly across from République (the metro side). The street runs straight up, through Place de la Mairie, and towards St. Anne. There are stores everywhere for everything!
You can also take the #3 bus towards Alma to get to the Alma shopping mall and to one of the best grocery/everything else stores -- Carrefour. It's almost like a giant Target; it's that sort of store.
Rue St Georges has innumerable creperies. This street has a certain olde world charm.
Funky Munky - 37, rue St. Melaine, a cool vodka/cocktail bar located near an entrance for the Thabor park. Drinks are relatively cheap -- the more you buy, the cheaper it gets. The bar serves 30 flavors of vodka, numerous cocktails (including a Long Island Iced Tea, Cosmos, Sex on the Beach, and a delicious drink called a Purple Turtle), and a few beers on tap or in bottles. The bar hosts a poetry slam every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month, and a quiz night every Monday from about 8pm on. The bartender (and owner!) speaks both French AND English, so don't worry about having to speak perfect French.
O'Connell's Irish Pub - a VERY popular Irish pub located at 6-7, Place du Parlement. Ask anyone and I'm sure someone will point you in the right direction. St. Patrick's Day at this place is insane - the pub becomes packed to capacity. Same rules apply for any big sporting events. Monday nights from 7pm-11pm and Thursday nights from 7pm-close are happy hour. A pint of beer/stout/ale is 4 Euros (and in some cases, less) during happy hour -- just check the little posters up on the walls at the bar (or ask the bartenders, they're all very friendly and most, if not all, of them are anglophones). Not only do the anglophones love this place, but the French do too.
Westport Inn - another Irish pub located at 36, rue de Dinan. It's smaller, but it's got an authentic feel to it, and the drinks are slightly cheaper than at O'Connell's. It's just down the street from Place des Lices. But, according to the sign on the window, you're not allowed to bring in nuclear weapons, so if you're packing, go elsewhere :)
The cheapest place to stay, as with most places, is the local youth hostel. This is found in a pleasant area by the canal. Prices for a night start from €12.60.
The campsite at Rennes is rather large. To get there, take the number 3 bus, and get off at the Park de Gauyelles stop. The neighbouring park has much to offer, including an ice rink and sports facilities.
But depending on when you decide to go, some of the local hotels may offer better (and more comfortable and convenient) deals. Check them out too!
It is fairly easy to travel in France, therefore it would be clever to take advantage of the beautiful cities and costal scenery in Bretagne. St Malo, a wonderful coastal town on the English Channel, is only 45 minutes by the TGV and usually costs less than 10 euros. Buses are also available for cheaper but take a bit longer.